LAKELAND, Fla. — About 25 million people living in the United States have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new report found Lakeland is the most challenging city in the south for a person with asthma.
Emily Stewart, 21, has had severe asthma most of her life.
“As I’ve gotten older, my asthma has progressively gotten worse.”
Stewart said her symptoms are especially bad when the seasons change.
“You just feel like your chest is really heavy. It'll feel like you have something sitting on your chest. It’s hard to breathe. You’re wheezing, you’re coughing and it’s just kind of non-stop. It'll wake me up out of the night sometimes,” Stewart said.
The Lakeland native uses various treatments to improve her quality of life, including different inhalers and injections. However, a new report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranked Lakeland as the worst place to live in the south if you have asthma.
“Pollen counts are definitely an asthma trigger, as are viral infections; 80% of asthma exacerbation in children are triggered by viral infections such as rhinovirus and other similar viruses that cause common cold symptoms. Air pollution can be a trigger,” said Dr. Kathryn Convers, owner of Lakeland Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The study looked at asthma prevalence, emergency room visits due to asthma attacks, and asthma-related deaths. Lakeland came in fourth in the entire country.
“We’re diagnosing patients newly with asthma on a daily basis,” said Dr. Convers.
Dr. Convers said her office has a three-month wait for new patients. The report also examined access to medical care, where Lakeland is ranked 10th for the fewest asthma specialists. Dr. Convers is looking to bring on additional physicians to her practice.
“We definitely recognize the greater need in Lakeland for asthma, allergy and immunology specialists, and so we absolutely hope to grow in the near future,” Dr. Convers.